UCT head coach John Dobson has elected to move two of his Stormers squad members – who started against Shimlas last week – onto the bench for this afternoon’s Varsity Cup clash with NWU-Pukke at Groote Schuur’s Green Mile (kick-off 4.30pm, live on SS1).
Lock Martin Muller and centre Tim Whitehead – both of whom played in the Stormers’ emphatic 42-13 thumping of Boland at the weekend – have been benched, but Dobson has elected to start with last week’s replacement back rower Yaya Hartzenberg, who impressed with his physicality in the historic Cape Town Stadium clash.
The Ikey Tigers’ other Stormers players, Nick Köster and Tiger Bax, are still recovering from long-term injuries and should feature only in the second half of the 2010 FNB Varsity Cup presented by Steinhoff International.
“Obviously Tim and Martin are exceptional players – you do not play Super Rugby at about 20 [years of age] by being ordinary and we are privileged to have them available to us – largely thanks to the superb relationship we have with Rassie Erasmus and Western Province [Stormers],” Dobson said.
“However, I have to take into account the playing load on these players, as well as how often they can train with us,” he added.
“It is credit to them, and this tournament, that they are absolutely dying to play this afternoon – but it is an old coach’s dichotomy in sport to which there is often no right nor wrong – balancing the players who serve you day-in, day-out versus having a couple of your bigger name players. But I do think we have the mix right (against Pukke) and it doesn’t make for a bad bench, does it?!”
UCT and Pukke, both of whom have qualified for two semifinals (in 2008 and 2009), have met in some thrillers over the history of Varsity Cup - and there is no reason why this afternoon’s battle at the Green Mile should be any different.
FNB UCT (revised): 15 Therlow Pietersen, 14 Marcello Sampson, 13 Marcel Brache, 12 Sean van Tonder, 11 Pete Haw, 10 Matt Rosslee, 9 Stu Commins (vice-captain), 8 JJ Gagiano, 7 Yaya Hartzenberg, 6 Nick Fenton-Wells (captain), 5 Levi Odendaal, 4 Don Armand, 3 Grant Kemp, 2 Dayne Jans, 1 Ash Wells.
Replacements: 16 Mark Goosen, 17 Chris Heidberg, 18 Greg Mallett, 19 Martin Muller, 20 Kyle Wickins, 21 Tim Whitehead, 22 Douglas Mallett, 23 Wes Chetty.
Head coach: John Dobson
Date: Monday, February 8
Venue: Groote Schuur
Referee: Dilbert November